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Memories of working at Yorkshire Brick Company, Stairfoot Works by Roy Waghorn

I started work at the company in 1980, being employed as a fork lift truck driver. My previous employment was at the Hepworth Group of Companies where I had recently gained a HGV qualification. Working hours at the brickworks were as follows Monday to Friday 0730 to 1600 hours, Saturday working was optional depending on demand. Clay used for brick making was sourced from the adjacent quarries. The clay was processed by crushing, screening and blending , followed by the addition of a controlled volume of water, placed then into a series of brick shaped moulds. The next stage of the process was placement of the moulds into a drying kiln, and finally transferred to a firing kiln operating at a temperature of up to 1100 degrees centigrade using North Sea Gas as the fuel to form the finished bricks. The overall cycle taking place over a two/ three day period. Overall brick production being up to half a million bricks per week. Transport links to the company were both by road and rail. During my time at the company, road transport was predominantly used.

The company employed up to forty employees with a further six office staff. The works manager was Alan Wright, and the overall site manager was Alan Winlow later to become a director. Mr Winlow was a very well liked, respected and knowledgeable man and among many of his innovative developments he introduced the tumble brick process, which gave the bricks an antique dated appearance, which proved to be very popular and led to a significant increase in trade.
During the 1980s the worked out quarry (ies) were filled with domestic waste , which gave a further source of income for the company, and as an added bonus, a by- product of the bio-degradation of the waste, landfill gas is produced, the methane content of the gas being used in combination with the North Sea Gas to fire the bricks, resulting in energy saving costs on fuel.

Improvements at the site during my employment, was the introduction of tunnel designed kilns in the early 2000s, and from hand packing of bricks to an automated system. As previously mentioned, Mr Winlow was a very caring employer looking after his staff to a high degree, on one occasion during a period of extremely inclement weather my protective clothing was proving to be inadequate, he provided me with a weather proof coat fit for royalty.

From my initial employment as a fork lift truck driver, I was promoted to foreman of the packaging department. The company was renowned as being an investor in people, subsequently winning awards in this field (see photos)
The company was taken over in the 1980s by the Marshall Group of Companies and later by the Hanson Group. The recession and import of cheaper bricks from Europe led to the closure of the site in 2012, the workforce subsequently being made redundant. Following redundancy I was employed within the NHS until retirement.

I worked at the brickworks for thirty two years, it was the happiest time of my working life, the memories and the people I worked with are still etched in my mind today.

Roy Waghorn
October 2021

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